'Amang' threatens Pope's Luneta Mass
MANILA, Philippines – The first storm of 2015 threatens Pope Francis' last major public event in his visit to the Philippines.
State weather bureau PAGASA raised public storm warning signal number 1 over the National Capital Region on Saturday, January 17, through its 5 pm update on Tropical Storm Amang (international name Mekkhala).
The storm signal comes the evening before a public outdoor Mass to be given by the Pope at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. As many as 6 million people are expected to flock to the surrounding area to hear him.
The Mass is scheduled to start at 3:30 pm. According to PAGASA's forecast, Amang's center will be in Infanta, Quezon, at 2 pm, bringing it close to Metro Manila an hour and a half before the mass. Its proximity could mean stronger winds and more rainfall.
PAGASA's warning means Mass goers can expect winds with speeds of 30 to 60 kilometers per hour (km/h) within the next 36 hours. The agency also says Amang brings heavy to intense rainfall within its 400-kilometer diameter.
Government officials advised attendees to wear raincoats and to come early to Luneta. Umbrellas are not allowed inside the venue.
Meanwhile, foreign weather stations, like the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center and Japan Meteorological Agency, have upgraded Amang to a typhoon after detecting wind speeds higher than those detected by PAGASA.
Before the Mass, Pope Francis is scheduled to be at the University of Santo Tomas to meet with youths, followed by a motorcade to Luneta.
Both events may also be dampened by Amang. The UST event is set to take place in an open field, while the motorcade has the Pope riding the open-air popemobile through the streets of Manila.
However, the Pope has shown he isn't scared of weather disturbances.
Despite public storm warning number 2 being hoisted over Tacloban City and Palo in Leyte earlier on Saturday, the Pope pushed through with his visit to both cities. However, he had to cut his itinerary short to avoid Amang's landfall in the region.
The weather also did not stop thousands of people from attending a Mass presided over by the Pope in Tacloban.
Amang may also affect the Pope's departure from Manila on Monday morning, January 19. On that day, PAGASA predicts Amang will still be within Central Luzon or Northern Luzon. At 2 pm Monday, Amang's center is likely to be 155 kilometers east of Aparri, Cagayan. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com